Updated Marvel Ranking Post with Black Panther

 

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So, this is a super short post.  I had to go to the Driver’s License Center this morning to renew my Driver’s License.  For those not in America, your Driver’s License in America is SUPER-IMPORTANT!  We don’t have a “universal ID,” in America, but this is pretty close.  It functions as the ID for employment, for (obviously) driving, for banking, for home ownership, for voting, etc.  There’s very little you can do without it, so that’s where I was this morning.

I noticed that over the weekend, people were interested in the Ranking of Marvel Movies post, so I thought I’d fast track my ranking with Black Panther.  I should also note that I forgot that I’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, and while I didn’t have time to add it in, I will in fairly short order, so the only Marvel movie I haven’t seen is Thor: Ragnarok which I hope to see in May.  Well, that’s all I have time for today!

Sidney



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The Black Panther (Marvel)–Non-Spoiler Movie Review

Black Panther Movie Poster_IMDB

Wow.  Just wow!  I saw Black Panther over the weekend and I was absolutely floored by how good of a movie it turned out be!  Based on the traffic on the site over the weekend, it looks a fair number of people came to check and see what I though of it.  Apologies for not posting this review sooner, but I always like to take a day or two to think about my responses–positive or negative to reflect before coming online to talk about them.  I also watched several reviews (spoiler and non-spoiler) to get a feel for how other critics were talking about the movie (I only watch reviews after I’ve already seen something–too many “non-spoiler” reviews give away too much of the plot by focusing on the story.  And this is one story that you don’t want spoiled!  Sure, thanks to foreshadowing, you can see somethings coming in this movie, but still, it really, really works!

A Great Marvel Movie

One of the things that I want to stress is that this is an excellent Marvel movie.  Don’t think this is some cheerless dirge -like epic.  The filmmakers expertly crafted humor, drama, pathos, action, and suspense into the movie.  If you liked other Marvel movies, then you’ll like this one.  However, it also has a sprawling, epic feel to it.  The setting–Wakanda specifically and Africa, in general–is almost a character in itself and is very much a visual spectacle.  The colors really pop (esp. later in the movie) and I really like the way the filmmakers integrated the music into the narrative.  Really impressive stuff.

A Great Story–Plot

This is also where the movie shines.  Don’t worry, as this is a non-spoiler, I won’t talk about the specifics.  However, I will say, from a plotting standpoint, this is “aspirational” for me.  I would love for my stories to show this level of drama, suspense and action sequences.  The filmmakers–for me, at least–got the mix pretty much perfect.  I’ve seen a few reviewers ding it for not having enough action, but I think that, much like any other “origin story,” the filmmakers chose to focus on the introducing us to and developing the characters rather than on slam-bang action.  There are definitely action sequences, but they aren’t there at the exclusion of everything else and they make sense in the context of the story, unlike other movies that I could name.

Great Characters

This is where the movie truly shines.  The characters in this movie are awesome!  There isn’t a character who did not land in terms of characterization, motivation, or development.  I have to say that all the characters really exhibited a pathos that was interesting to watch on screen and really helped to engage me as an audience member.  As a writer, I saw the true power of characters to literally “pull” the audience into the story and then propel them to want to finish the story (again, aspirational for my own writing).  There are standouts of course, but I don’t want to highlight too many, for fear of spoiling things, but I will say that T’Challa has a sister and her banter with her brother is not to be missed.  Her lines are some of the best in the movie (humor-wise) and reminded me of the banter that my uncle and I shared before his untimely passing.

Afrofuturism

I’ve talked a few times about Afrofuturism on this blog in relation to school, but I’ve never really defined it.  Black Panther is probably the best representation of it that I’ve seen on-screen yet.  Afrofuturism is about the African/African-American experience, but rather than focusing on the past, it instead looks to the future.  Sure, there are references to the past, but rather than dehumanizing, the subject of Afrofuturism acknowledges that the past happened, but it looks to a brighter future with technology and with heart to note that a brighter path is open to all, if we only have the courage to embrace it.  While I may be reading the movie with an Afrofuturistic lens, it does have elements sci-fi that help to make it a movie that isn’t just stuck in the past retreading the same old ground.

Overall Grade: A+ (Excellent)

Really, this movie is an Excellent movie and does all that it sets out to do exceptionally well.  Is it perfect?  Of course not.  Again, some say it doesn’t have enough action.  I noticed that the very first mission (few scenes) are very dark (although my suspicion is that this is on purpose to make the colors pop when you first enter Wakanda, but it does make it hard to see the very first action scene).  However, I try to grade movies (or other media that I review) with the same grading scale colleges use and Excellent is used when there are either no blemishes or the blemishes are so minor that they don’t detract significantly from the overall experience.  I can’t decide if this is my favorite Marvel movie yet (although I think it might be), but I can safely say that it is in my Top 3.  I’m glad that the filmmakers and actors got a chance to make this movie and that I got a chance to see it!  I don’t usually make recommendations–but in this case, I’ll just say, if you’re at all interested in Marvel movies, or are just curious as to what all the fuss is about, to me, this one didn’t disappoint.

Sidney



Joined Amazon Associates Program–Supporting My Writing Endeavors

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Person at a Macbook Pro Laptop, Image Source: The Balance

Sorry this post is so late, but I had a meeting with a professor at my school this morning and I wasn’t able to write the blog at my normal time.  Should be back on schedule now.

So, when I was a teacher of 6th Grade Language Arts, one of the teachers who taught 8th Grade discovered that I was into creative writing and a published author and she wanted to show her support by buying my work on Amazon as it was the end of the school year and both she and I were leaving (she was going to a new school and I was leaving the teaching profession to come to graduate school).  I was so grateful and happy that she wanted to read/purchase my writing.  And then she asked if the purchase would benefit me in any way because she really wanted to help support me as a writer.  I was so grateful, but I had to admit that no, there aren’t royalties to publishing short fiction like there was for books and novels–the purchase would only help me tangentially by the fact that supporting the publishers would allow them to stay in business and perhaps publish more of my stories later, but no, the actual purchase that she made wouldn’t help me directly.  She still made the purchase (Thanks, Ms. L!) and enjoyed the work, but I felt kinda’ bad that I had no way to have her purchase of my works help me out directly as this was part of her purpose in buying them.

Going Commercial?
I tell that story to sort of explain why I chose to set-up an Amazon Associate program in that it allows me to (finally) come up with a way for those who want to purchase my things to benefit both the publishers who publish my work (they get money to stay in business and hopefully publish me or other writers in the future) and myself (I get a small percentage of the sale for those who click on the Amazon links and buy it directly through the links.)

Oh, so you’re commercializing the blog?

Nope.  I’ve been a Bookseller at Waldenbooks and I am convinced that it was management’s decision to focus on the selling of the loyalty card rather than focusing on their core business, i.e., selling books, as the key that kept them from seeing and responding to the challenge of larger retailers like Barnes & Noble and the online presence and power, of well, Amazon and this help speed their demise.

I’m a professional writer and that’s what I do.  That is where my love is and that’s where I will continue to put my focus.  I only want to 1) give those who want to support me as a writer a way of doing so, 2) a way to help both small presses who don’t get exposure of larger publishers, and myself as well as small presses can’t offer royalties like the large presses do.

What does it mean for the Blog?

  • Not much, if I’m honest.  I’ll add links under my signature that, if you click on them, will take you to the relevant page.  If you purchase the item (i.,e., Oneclick or place it in your shopping cart and complete the purchase), I’ll get a very small percentage back.  The links that are currently for places where you can find my work for “free” will continue just as they are (one of the two remaining stories under consideration is actually at a “free” publication, so if it gets accepted, I’ll add it as normal).  Links for free and paid content will show up under my signature–once it gets to unwieldy, I’ll probably drop the “Archives” Section and move the links to the sidebar).
  • A new page that is a curated list of things that I have on my bookshelf that I really like (books, games, movies, and other media).  If any look interesting, please feel free to click on it, if not, then no worries.
  • A Saturday update of the “Favorite Media” page (okay, now this is going to be hard–I try to use the weekends to brainstorm for blog ideas for the upcoming week, so I can’t promise that this is always going to happen, but I will try my best).
  • And a small sentence at the bottom of posts to let readers know that I’m a part of the Associates program.  Now, to be clear, I don’t work at Amazon.  I’m a writer and a graduate student (for now, at least, but more on that later).  But Amazon (and I) want to be clear that the links that I promote are “commercial” in nature.

And that’s it!  I’m going to test out the link below for my story, “Faerie Knight” which was on the Tangent Online 2014 Recommended Reading List.

Feel free to click on the Amazon link if you choose, or not, as the case may be.  Hope you have a great day!  And it is back to writing for me–revising All Tomorrow’s Children so that I start submitting it over the weekend.

Sidney


Super Bowl Trailer: Black Panther (Marvel) & Planning on seeing Black Panther Saturday

Black Panther Movie Poster_IMDB

Black Panther (Marvel Movie) Movie Poster Releasing on 2_16_18, Image Source: IMDB.com

Regular readers of the blog know that I am a fan of both Marvel and DC.  Yes, heresy I know, but unlike many who watch the comic book movies, I’m actually a fan of comics books.  I bought odd issues from Rite Aid stores (they were called Eckerds Drug Stores) back in the late ’70s and early ’80s from their round spinners that they used to keep near the checkout counter–or more accurately, I should my parents would deign to buy them for me when I saw one that really caught my eye (did I mention that my parents were big on reading?).  Later, as I grew up and received an allowance for chores, the bulk of my money went towards books and comics.  I generally had enough money for 2 paperback books (Sci-Fi/Fantasy, of course) and either 1 magazine or 2 comic books.  Sometimes, if the mag. was cheap enough, I could even squeeze in a comic.  So I have a pretty sizable collection (I had more, but traded about a third away).  The point is, I actually read and enjoyed comics, so I really like and enjoy the comic book movies–most of them, anyway.  So I am stoked about the upcoming Black Panther movie.

Going Saturday
I enjoy most Marvel movies and that I’m really invested in the Marvel Universe (however, because of AMC buying out the local Carmike theater, I missed the latest Marvel and DC movies.  While I wasn’t able to find a new theater, I went ahead and bought advance tickets for Black Panther to see on Saturday, so fingers crossed–I hope it will be good.

 

 

Planning on Doing a Non-Spoiler Review and Updating Marvel Ranking Post
If I do go and see it, I will, of course, do a non-spoiler review as I tend to do with the movies that I go see in theaters.  I will probably also rank it on the Ranking of Marvel Movies post as well, but I will probably need to add in the fact somewhere that I’ve missed a Marvel movie (Thor Ragnarok).  The listing won’t actually be complete until I’ve seen that movie and it might be a while based on school, in particular, and life, in general.

Anyway, I hope to be able to talk to you more about it next week and here’s hoping that it has some really strong plotting, characterization, and visuals (& a good dose of humor) as well.

Well, that’s all I have time for today–have a great day, everyone!

Sidney
Read Skin Deep for Free at Aurora Wolf
Read Childe Roland for Free at Electric Spec

 

Super Bowl Movie Trailer: Mission Impossible – Fallout

I’m moderately excited for Mission Impossible – Fallout (MI:F) based on the strong Super Bowl trailer that they released for the movie.  While the MI series has been hit or miss for me (i.e., there have been some entries that I’ve not liked as much), the previous two, for me, at least, have been great!  I know Ghost Protocol might not get quite as much love as the latest one to date, Rogue Nation, but I STILL use Jeremy Renner’s character’s formulation when I’m behind or running late–“Well, maybe if I cut down this street, it only has two traffic lights,”  “Not enough time,” “Well, I shave a couple seconds if I take the stairs, and avoid the elevator,” “Not enough time,” and so forth.  That is probably one of the funniest lines in the movie and it is all based on the way Renner delivers the line–“practiced indifference.”  If Renner wasn’t already such a huge movie star, I’d be tempted to highlight him in the Great Actors in Small Roles just for that sequence alone–but I digress.

The point is, I really like the MI series.  My uncle turned me on to them when they were on TV in reruns (the original run on TV was before my time) during the height of ’70s James Bond mania.  The problem is, the episodes weren’t really syndicated well and I never really was able to find them on TV and watch them, so even though I know of them and have seen a couple to handful of episodes, it wasn’t until the Tom Cruise movies that I was really able to enjoy them and get invested in the idea of the IMF.

So far, for me, each of the past movies have topped themselves in terms of story and characterization, starting with MI 3.  This movie was the start of me recognizing the actual potential in the series.  I’d watched MI and MI 2, but I wasn’t as invested in those (although I did like the idea of the IMF “team” in MI), but that didn’t really go anywhere.  MI 3 had strong villain, MI: Ghost Protocol had a new “team” with Simon Pegg’s character providing much needed comic relief, and MI: Rogue Nation had Sarah Ferguson’s strong female “foil” to Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt.

I’m cautiously optimistic that they can repeat their success–but I’m a bit guarded.  I’d hoped that Matt Damon in Jason Bourne could continue the upward trend of the Bourne movies, but JB undid a lot the story and characterization of the previous three movies in trying to “pivot” the franchise into a new direction with new supporting characters and really was a bit of a letdown.  Hopefully MI:F can avoid this potential pitfall.  We’ll see this summer–hopefully, its a great movie!  Well, that’s all for me today–have a good one, everyone!

Sidney
Read Skin Deep for Free at Aurora Wolf
Read Childe Roland for Free at Electric Spec

 

 

Bedtime Books: Legend of the Five Rings (RPG)

When I was a child, I had a curfew of 10pm, which meant that I had to be in bed by that time.  Luckily, I didn’t have to actually be asleep by that time.  I couldn’t watch TV (not part of the curfew), but I could read.  And so, like any enterprising boy who didn’t really want to lie down and go to sleep, I read . . . and read . . . and read.  I usually read for about 45 minutes to an hour, though sometimes I stretched it a little.  I can only remember getting into trouble one time for staying up too late as my family was huge on reading.

I relate this story because I discovered that I don’t really read at night any more–haven’t for a while.  I had a reading light when I was a child, but the overhead ceiling lights aren’t really conducive to reading in preparation for bed.  Luckily, over the past year I found a nice lamp that doubles as a good reading light so, periodically, I’ve been experimenting with reading at night like I used to as a child.  I haven’t been able to find the right book . . . until now.  Most of the books that I read are novels and I tend to devour them, especially now that I have so little reading time.  I tend to read too long and  stay up too late reading.

However, after much trial and error, I’ve finally found (hopefully) a genre of books that seem to work as bedtime reading–not too boring that it will put me to sleep immediately and not too dramatic that I stay up too late reading: Role-playing Games (RPGs).  The one I’m reading now is called  Legend of the Five Rings and it is a Fantasy RPG that merges a fantasy land with martial arts and magic.  Right now I’m reading the “history” of the world, which is a fantasy mash-up of the long history of countries like China and Japan.  It is interesting enough as I’m a History minor and love the history behind the world, but not riveting enough to keep me from putting it down when I finally feel tired.  I’m able to get ideas for future stories while reading, but I’m also able to rest as well.  It will be quite a while before I finish it–it is after all a 338 page book with double columns, but hopefully it will help me both sleep and be productive with story ideas at the same time.

Sidney
Read Skin Deep for Free at Aurora Wolf
Read Childe Roland for Free at Electric Spec

Commodore 64 Nostalgia Review: Super Cycle

So, Super Cycle is one of my favorite games.  It isn’t my favorite game, but it up there.  I really enjoyed playing it and wish that the series had continued into present day.  It is a racing game (which, when done right, is always a crowd pleaser with me).  It featured racers on motorcycles who raced across the country in various settings.

It wasn’t anything too special and it wasn’t very unique.  It was just a motorcycle racer, in various environments (which were really just green for meadows, yellow for desert and bluish black for night), in which you raced the clock to get to the next checkpoint before time expired while avoiding other racers and obstacles on the side of the road.  It essence, it was a motorcycle “clone” of the very famous and very popular Pole Position video game (which was similar in design, but featured a “unrecognizable” jumble of pixels that was supposed to represent a Formula One/Indy car).

It didn’t have the depth as some of the racing games that I bought and enjoyed, but I always enjoyed putting the disk into the C64’s disk drive for a good while and I always remember that I had fun with it even when I wasn’t doing so well (crashing and the like).  I think the only thing that could have made it better for me would have been more stages/environments.  I think the C64 version topped at 3–meadows, desert, and night (although I could be mistaken).  Regardless, I don’t remember it being able to capture my attention long-term (for hours) because of the quickly repeating stages/courses.  Still, I remember it fondly and it is one of the reasons why I still gravitate to the racing genre in games even today.

Here is a YouTube Video for the game (ah, that intro music really brings me back) 🙂

The game was developed by Epyx, a studio that I don’t know too much about–they were never really profiled in magazines like hot new studios such as Electronic Arts (EA), Activision and Imagic were at the time (I suppose I can do a google search and report back on what I find at some point), however I remember the few games that I got from them–I know I have at least one more–their games were pretty good–always above average in terms of quality and fun factor.  Like Super Cycle, I wish they were still around and programming/producing games as a Design Studio.

Well, that’s all for today.  Have a great day!

Sidney
Read Skin Deep for Free at Aurora Wolf
Read Childe Roland for Free at Electric Spec